/ Technology

Are manufacturers cheating you out of printer ink?

Colour ink cartridges lined up

Does your printer ink run out too quickly? Can you ignore ‘low ink’ messages? Believe it or not, your printer may be fooling you into changing your cartridge before it’s even empty.

If you think your printer cartridges run out far too early, you may have a point.

A recent class action in the US involving claims against HP has now been settled. To cut a long story short, I’ll summarise it as ‘consumers being diddled out of getting the most from the ink they’ve paid for’.

Printer manufacturers have got some of us right where they want us – third party inks aren’t an option for every printer, so we often don’t have a choice about what to buy.

We’re used to our printers throwing up messages about low ink levels, but how many of us know all that goes on in the ‘mind’ of a cartridge’s microchip? When it ‘talks’ to our printer is it merely scheming to find the best way to part us from our cash?

Low ink messages, expiry dates and mono prints

In short, the three lawsuits in the HP Inkjet Printer Litigation case claimed that:

  • HP’s ‘low on ink’ messages were confusing people into prematurely replacing cartridges
  • Certain HP cartridges shut down on undisclosed expiration dates
  • Some HP colour printers use colour ink for black and white prints without disclosing the fact or providing the option to disable it

We know from our tests that printers from a range of manufacturers use colour for black and white prints. And we’re used to overriding ‘low ink’ messages to get as much out of a cartridge as possible when we’re testing too. But unless printer manufacturers advise consumers, how are people to know how often they can override a low ink warning?

How will this case help consumers?

This recent US class action may look like a chink of light, but before we get excited, consider that HP denied all of the claims in the action and the court didn’t rule in favour of either party.

As part of the proposed settlement HP is contributing $5,000,000 of e-credits to class members. This basically means that anyone who bought an affected model in the US can claim up to $6 each. Yes, that’s right, six whole dollars.

HP is making a few changes – namely agreeing to discontinue using certain pop-up ink messages and graphics and making certain disclosures on its website and packaging.

This may sound like progress, but it’s just words, not actual change. After all, if your printer’s telling you to change your cartridge too early and using colour where black and white will do, what else could it be doing to drain your supplies and your wallet?

David Hone says:
10 September 2011

Its a fact we are being riped off see how they rip you off here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmAKDOrOeWg

Rosslyn Bower says:
25 September 2011

Canon MG6140 This printer cleans all of its heads between print jobs. Consequently all the colour cartridges need replacing (due to cleaning process) whether you have printed in colour or not! Alarm messages occur when cartridge is running low (rather than when it is empty) and printer stops printing altogether unless you replace cartridge. This printer is using stupendous amounts of ink, at great expense, whether I am printing in colour or not! Disgraceful … there should be a law against this customer exploitation.

If the print heads were not cleaned they would block up and become unusable. Printers should be designed not to clean their heads more often than necessary. To minimise printing costs I use a black & white laser printer and use the colour printer only when I need to print in colour.

dictrix says:
29 July 2012

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve used my MG6140 printer (it is a multifunction) to print exactly one page and to scan multiple pages to the pc.
Guess what! Ink ran out when I wanted to print my second page as every time I powered up the printer it cleaned it’s heads and slowly but surely empties the cartridges.
This should be reported to the consumer watchdogs.

graham says:
3 March 2012

i have a hp photsmart 306. i cannot run non hp made cartridges in it. isnt that anti competition/ restrictive practice?? and illegal. it is surely againt consumer choice and something WHICH should campaign on.
how do i know how much ink i buy each time? if hp drops the ink content in its cartridges but keeps the price the same how do i know? i suspect they do this a lot.Its a rip off!!

Robert McLoughlin says:
31 July 2014

I have an HP Photosmart5520 and was tempted to use refilled cartridges with disastrous results with leaked ink on carpet and table. Since then I have used more suppliers of HP cartridges than I care to remember until I came across Argos’ prices (which beat PC World).

Frans van der Werf says:
13 November 2016

I just bought new cartridges for my HP 5520 Photosmart. Ink levels show normal at first. Then after lining the cartridges out, I get the message that they are low on Ink. Alternative cartridges are blocked via software and their own cartridges are empty to start with! These cartridges cost you dearly and then they seem empty!! They provide support behind a truckload of texts and other nonsense. What a miserable product. It seems only driven by cartridge sales.

Do not buy printers from HP is my advise!!!!

Frans- it only takes one cartridge to “show ” empty for it to stop printing , HP says its stops “Grey scale ” printing as, according to them they need the colours to do that. This is refuted by many . One thing you can try is cover each tag behind the cartridge,one at a time with scotch tape and try it out till you find the one that allows your printer to work again . As your post brings it up to a month or more since HP said they would rescind this by a firmware update they obviously still havent , not looking good in the truth department -HP ?? profit before customer satisfaction , does Whirlpool and VW not “ring a bell ” – -IE- loss of trade . BY the way Epson has /or had a reset button , not like HP.

This is a rather old Conversation but nothing much has changed except that HP decided to up its game and then issued an apology: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/printer-software-update-third-party-printer-ink/

The purpose of keeping it going Wavechange is to see if HP are honest in the world proclamation that they will reverse their “firmware update ” so that third party inks can be used . It has been brought up in other convos in which I asked for posters to keep me /Which informed as to when HP actually download an update that rescinded the previous one. This is down to commercial integrity .

I added the link in case others were not aware of what has been going on recently. I’m no expert but printer ink could be used as a focus of modern anticompetitive practices. For years I used to buy HP ink but as a matter of principle have no intention of doing so in future. If using other ink blocks the printheads then I cannot expect HP to offer support, but if a different problem arises I will make use of my statutory rights. I won’t attempt to cheat companies and I expect them to behave responsibly too.

I would expect users to have to download an update to be able to reverse the effect of an update. I wonder how much consumers’ money has been wasted by users having to replace non-HP cartridges with HP ones.

Yes – Let’s keep this going. 🙂

Paul D says:
9 November 2017

My Epsonstylus photo RX425
Still states out of ink even when refilled: is there anything I can do?

Paul this sounds like you need a cartridge reset. I take it you don’t use third party inks ?? –yes/no ?? If you use Windows try the – SSCSERVICE.exe also take out cartridges there any flashing lights ? if so the inkpads could need replacing then push them back in . If you are asked on reset if you have replaced them lIE and say yes this worked for some. Try the service utility first then come back. Sorry to say Epson keep on telling you to send it to an “authorised” dealer , stupid if you don’t live near one or the printer didn’t cost much . You can also try a re-installation . I repeat though I take it no third party inks were used ? It needs only one cartridge to be classed as “empty ” for it to stiop working also Epson goes through this profit making ink usage process of “head cleaning ” where large amounts of ink are used every time you switch it -on/off – dont ever turn it off if you get it running again .